Arsenal Football Club won a landmark legal battle yesterday to stop the sale of unofficial souvenirs bearing its logo. The ruling could lead to a national clampdown on street traders operating outside stadiums.
Lawyers said the ruling by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg could prompt action by pop groups and other enterprises that wanted to stamp out unofficial merchandising of their brands by street traders.
Matthew Reed, a familiar figure for 31 years outside Arsenal's Highbury ground in north London, claimed he always made clear his products were not sanctioned by the club. He said he was using the Arsenal logos as "badges of allegiance". The High Court in London accepted the argument, but the European judges disagreed, declaring: "The proprietor of a trademark must be able to prevent its use by a third party if that use is liable to affect the guarantee of origin of the goods. The fact that the use may be perceived as a badge of support for or loyalty or affiliation to a proprietor of the trademark does not affect that principle."
The verdict will be a relief to football clubs and sportswear manufacturers, who feared their sponsorship deals could be undermined and millions of pounds lost if Mr Reed had won his case.
Mr Reed said he would turn up to the ground as usual "and see what happens". Pauline Dore of the London law firm Lewis Silkin said the European court's decision "could well open the floodgates for football clubs to begin clamping down on the vendors of unofficial merchandise, as they will feel they now have a strong precedent behind them".